My father was born in 1886, in Big Clifty, Kentucky, a community so small that now, 122 years later, it is still just a wide spot in US 65 between Leitchfield and White Mills Junction. His was a line of hardscrabble farmers, hunters and probably moonshiners too. He never finished school, leaving at age 12 to help support his brothers and sisters. Despite that, he went on to become a respected horticulturist and founder of an entire farming industry.
My mom was born in Coleraine, MN, and moved to St. Augustine, FL in about 1915. I’ve written about her life here.
The point I want to make about both of them, and especially her, is this. Despite unsophisticated, humble beginnings, they were undoubtedly two of the least racially-biased people I’ve ever known. My father befriended Seminole Indians in the days when they were considered vermin by many other white men, and my mother never let the “n-word” cross her lips — and let it cross mine only once that she knew about. They were liberals — in the best sense — in a time and place where they were by no means either thick on the ground or well thought of, but I know enough about my dad, who died in 1952 when I was eight, to believe that no one ever uttered the word more than once in his presence, either. Certainly none of his kids did.
Mom died on April 19th of this year. She would have been so excited to have been able to vote for Barack Obama on November 4th — tomorrow.
It would have been her 100th birthday.